INTERVIEW: Joss Whedon Teases Buffy’s Surprising End & Dr. Horrible’s Return
Joss Whedon is in a transitional period.
The A-list screenwriter, film director and comics scribe may be at work on a new TV series for HBO, but in the comics world, he’s taking on the dual task of wrapping one long-running series (perhaps for good) and diving back in to another for a one-shot. The former is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which sees the fourth and final issue of its last comic season arrive in September, and the latter is Dr. Horrible, the internet sensation on its way back to comics with art from José Maria Beroy and Sara Soler.
CBR spoke with Whedon during Comic-Con International, and the writer shared the surprising behind the scenes moves that led to both his most recent comics projects, all the while answering the question of whether we’ll ever see more Dr. Horrible on screen or if the last Buffy season is truly “the end.”
CBR: Dark Horse announced a new Dr. Horrible comic at the show. I feel like that’s a piece of the overall Whedon canon people have been waiting for more of. Has it been a project where you’ve said “I will get back to that one day” or more “Suddenly I have an idea to go back to that”?
Joss Whedon: It was more “I know I’ll get back to it” because we talk about it all the time. I saw Neil [Patrick Harris] when he was doing Hedwig [And The Angry Inch], and after the performance I went backstage and said “You were amazing!” and he said, “When are you going to do a sequel?!” [Laughter] And then Jed and Maurissa have been working on the past few seasons of S.H.I.E.L.D., and so it’s hard to figure it out.
In the meantime, we want to do something more with Dark Horse right now – especially because Fox is taking the Buffy license and the Firefly license back. And Dark Horse has shepherded these licenses for decades now. But it’s like, “Well, they don’t own Dr. Horrible!” That’s mine. So I suggested that we could do a one-shot and then realized that no one else was going to write that. I sat down and got started and felt, “Oh, right. I love this.” I hadn’t revisited it in years, and to write a story that;s just severely dumb as those guys can be, it was pure joy. I just fell right back into the rhythm so easily. I’ve been seeing pages now, and I’m so excited.
I know each medium has its own strengths, but is it difficult with this one because you can’t just have music and singing in a comic book?
The music thing is one where I’ve always wanted to do a comic that links to a site wher eyou can download a song we recorded. But they were like, “Joss, you can’t get through a script, so…” But we do still have that element of anything can happen. We can break the fourth wall. You still want more, but I do really like how the franchise lends itself, particularly in comic books, to thinks like the Brian Michael Bendis 47-balloon panel. And obviously, budget is not considered an issue. So you want all the elements, and at some point you may get all the elements. But for now, I hear Nathan, and I hear Neil. It’s very easy to get those people back in my head. I don’t really miss the things I don’t have while I’m enjoying the things that I do have.
Looking at Buffy, aside from the movements made by the corporations holding the strigs, you’ve announced this series as the last “season.” The finale of the TV series had a thematic ending, but it left the door open to new areas of story. Are you looking at the last comic differently?
Similar to the show, we’re not going to close it all of in the sense of “Everybody’s dead!” Though we did think about doing that. [Laughter] But when I sat with Chris Gage, it was with the intent that after everything we’ve been through we wanted to have something to say that mirrors and rounds off where we started this comic [run]. And they said, “You have four issues,” and it was like “Ohhhh. That’s all the time we have.”
So we dealt with a lot of things in small panels, and I don’t know if I fit it all in, but it was very important to try. We made sure that the journey wasn’t continuing. We wanted to give the Dark Horse era some closure. What they’ve done over the years with Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn, and everything there has put their souls into this. The artists like Georges [Jeanty] and everyone were such a perfect match. It’s been a great combination, so it couldn’t just end.
A running threat through the comics has been the idea that Buffy was in high school and into young adulthood in the show, this story has been all about the transition from young adult to adult adult. Between the baby and the maturation of a lot of relationships, did you want to leave addressing whether Buffy’s fully grown up.
Yeah, that is the question. That’s the eternal question with her. Where does she fit into this world? Is she ever going to follow a pattern as most people do, or is she going to live a life that doesn’t really pan out for something into middle age? We’re not looking to answer the question, but we are looking to say “Here’s where she is now.” It will be the conclusion she’s come to that can give her some kind of understanding to say “I know who I am now.”
The 20s is a hard time to write about. I feel like Friends is actually underrated for its mythologizing of being in your 20s. How I Met Your Mother is the same kind of thing. There’s a story to be told about people who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing yet. Most of our stories are about the adolescent right of passage into adulthood, or they;re, “Oh, shit. I’m an adult, and I’ve got all these problems.” To crack the middle is really interesting. That’s what we were looking at in all of this. It was, “Let’s see if I can go to college for as long as Peter Parker did.”
The last piece of the series is the Fray piece of it. That’s an original element from Dark Horse that’s colliding back with the here and now. Did you want to address that because as a pure comics thing, it can maybe be a bit more dangerous in terms of a finish?
Yeah. It’s nice to be able to say that I can actually mess with that. The whole question that arose from my ignorance was “Are we creating the Fray future, or are we stopping it from happening?” And honestly, Fray was my first comic, and I wrote it because I thought “I kind of have to do a slayer comic, don’t I?” I didn’t really know that I could do whatever I wanted to. [Laughs] But I set it 300 years in the future, thinking, “That can’t possibly affect the show!” And then I’m an idiot, so it took me a while to realize that there’s something we can do with this dystopian thing hanging out there. What can we do with that? It was a nice place to say “Nobody’s safe.”
I don’t know what’s going to happen with [Fray], actually. I mean, legally. I heard about all of this after the fact. It’s like Disney taking Star Wars over to Marvel. All of a sudden we realize this is happening. So I’m writing this from a position that will leave everybody in a position where you feel some closure, but it’s definitely not. “Oh, now I won’t ever want to read about them again.
Original article at CBR